Top 10 Ways To Survive As an Expat SAHM In the Netherlands

By: Farrah Ritter

You're a SAHM. You're moving to the Netherlands from the US. How different will it be? I'm a mom of three boys: 3 year old twins and a 4 year old and have lived here just over a year. I don't work a paying job, I run our house and I am totally cool with that. Here are my top 10 tips for being an expat SAHM here in the Netherlands.

1. Don't expect to make friends- they have their connections already. Don't take it personally, it's just a cultural difference. I exist on the periphery of the moms at school. They are all very friendly, and I have made one good friend. Kids make their own playdates at school- you are not necessary to cultivate a relationship with the parent. They set it up and ask (tell) you when you come to pick them up if they can play with another child. I admit I have sent my 4-year-old to homes where I don't know the name of the schoolmate or parent- I only have their house number and street in the 'notes' section of my iPhone.

2. Sign up for grocery delivery (Albert Heijn) Sure- you can go to the nearby market or grocery store. But why? You can order everything you need online and have it delivered to your house for a very small price. Sometimes it's free. Have it brought to you and into your kitchen. These days my biggest complaint is that I have to put stuff in the fridge. Also, keep a running list of things you need from the States. That way when someone back home says 'Oh I'll send you something!" you can ask for things like Frank's Hot Sauce and Hidden Valley Ranch packets at the ready.

3. When people ask you if you work make up an arbitrary date as to when and what you will do someday. I have given up explaining that I taught high school until I had my first son and that I plan to go back to 'work' someday when they're all in school full time. But the Dutch don't care. You will see eyes glaze over. They just want to know how you are contributing and where. It's nothing personal!

4. Familiarize yourself with (and enjoy thoroughly) the country's beer. At the end of the day I really look forward to enjoying some of the local flavor in the form of a bottle. You're in the land of fantastic beer so take advantage of it! Also, with regard to wine understand that 'red wine' is a generic term and it's perfectly acceptable to simply ask for that in a restaurant. Note: the beer here is stronger than we're used to- so brace yourself.

5. Don't know the language? Never fear. Use your child as a translator. I've done this. My four-year old has gotten so good with Dutch that if need be, I trot him out and he does the work for me. I have also asked him to translate while out shopping when necessary. 'Where are the mittens' never sounded so complicated.

6. Accept the fact that your new Target is Hema. It's not the same. Not even close, but it will have to do. Just don't expect to have an easy time developing photos through their online web winkle and there is no such thing as a super cart that will seat up to four children.

7. Pat yourself on the back for riding a bike instead of driving a minivan. You've traded in your main mode of transportation. You're saving yourself gym or yoga fees while taking them to school. Just expect it to rain on a daily basis and when it doesn't you win. You will become very adept at holding an umbrella and riding a bike.

8. Get yourself a Slingbox in order to watch the previous days Ellen at the same time you normally would. If tv from home is really your thing- you can always record Sesame Street (the one here is weird with a purple Big Bird) or the other PBS kids shows. Personally I recommend getting your kids used to the cartoons in Dutch- as it will help them learn the language- as really, you need them to brush up on those translation skills.

9. If you're not already, become well versed with technology. The internet is your lifeline. Your cell phone will never ring again, but you will use it to check/post/like things on Facebook. You will feel pretty alone until about 3pm in the afternoon, but things do pick up right after nap time and just before dinner. This is somewhat inconvenient as you'll be trying to cook and deal with the 'witching hour' just as things get hopping.

10. Household chores will be a new kind of challenge. Specifically with laundry and cooking. You will never ever ever be on top of your laundry ever again. Feel like you're a slave to laundry now? Maybe this will be liberating. The washer will be smaller and if you have a dryer it will not dry things completely. Everything is backed up and you will soon start asking yourself 'just how many times is wearing x before washing it appropriate'. FYI- children's jeans is typically 4 wears. Additionally,   prepare to revamp the entire way you feed your family. Relying on Goldfish, Bunnies, or fruit snacks for your kids is a thing of the past! You'll have to teach them that fruit (real fruit) is the new snack. Dinners are also going to be fun since most of the ingredients you're used to cooking with don't exist here. If you're a soup casserole queen, kiss that title goodbye. On the bright side- meat, vegetables, breads etc will usually expire quickly because they're of a better quality and don't have the preservatives. So there's the whole healthy thing too. And no worries! You can get the grocery delivery as much as you'd like.

And lastly, a bonus #11, people back home will think you're amazingly brave for taking this leap into the unknown. You don't have to confess that if you have small children, it's pretty much the same thing if you're elbow deep in diapers. It's a crutch and a feeling of empowerment all at the same time.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingFarrah Ritter is an American expat living in Netherlands. Blog description: Twins + One and Everything Else... I have 2 year old twins and a 4 year old. We just packed up and moved overseas to try our hand at living in Europe. Parenting/humor/Europe travel included.
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Contest Comments » There are 10 comments

Thrifty Travel Mama wrote 10 years ago:

Great post, and many similarities to being a SAHM in Germany... except you have HEMA and grocery delivery!

Mrs. Chasing The Donkey wrote 10 years ago:

WHHHHHHHAT? You have grocery delivery and some kind of shop to replace Target - I curse you. Here in Croatia all of this is also true EXCEPT we have big washing machines. Well at least not smaller than I had in Australia. FANTASTIC READ.... GOLD MEDAL FROM ME

Olga@EuropeanMama wrote 10 years ago:

Great tips, Farrah! You are so right about the many aspects of SAHM life in the Netherlands- although I must admit I still don't cycle and get my groceries myself!

Ace @ Life In Dutch wrote 10 years ago:

Fantastic and entirely relatable. Bonus points if you start carrying a 24 count crate of beer on that bike with the umbrella.

Ann wrote 10 years ago:

I love Hema! It's not the same as Target, but it's pretty cool. Of course, I've never had to deal with their photo stuff.

Jess wrote 10 years ago:

This is all very accurate I think. I don't live in The Netherlands anymore, but married a Dutchie so still visit often. (Our kid is raised bi-lingual as well.) I miss HEMA as much as Target now. I definitely had a hard time in the friend department, but The Netherlands is notoriously closed socially. Great post!

Ute Limacher-Riebold wrote 10 years ago:

You obviously have a very American perspective of the Netherlands and the life here! I also love the cycling - although I can't do it as often as I would like to - and the AH home-delivery service is really great for all those times where kids are sick and for the heavy stuff you won't be able to carry with three kids etc..

Maryann wrote 10 years ago:

My mom grew up in Oisterwijk and immigrated to the US in 1951. I love your blog and reading about the town where she grew up and where I spent many summers as a young girl. You bring back happy memories.

MissNeriss wrote 10 years ago:

The TV point is totally awesome. I hate the TV here and everything we watch is sourced online.

Amanda Mouttaki wrote 10 years ago:

Great post! I faced kind of the reverse when moving to Morocco, a lot of Moroccan women are more surprised I do work (and have my own business) than that I don't. Getting kids used to fruit as a snack - yea that's another BIG hurdle we faced too!

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